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January Nineteeth

Once a year on this day, January 19th, I take a moment to remember a friend who passed away. He took his own life for reasons nobody knew. Not to say that my pain was greater than anyone else’s, but I took it hard because he seemed to me to have everything that I didn't. He seemed always happy and outgoing and I wasn't.

Back in 1987, and a couple of years before that, I hated my life and the situation I was in. I hated how I was being bullied at home, abused by an asshole at home, and how it seemed my peers hated me for being different. If anyone was going to take his life, it shouldn't have been him.

In retrospect, regardless of how tragic, something good came out of it. I mentioned to some of my friends how shocked and surprised I was at the outpouring of love afterwards. I was stunned by the number of people who were mourning and turned up for his funeral, two other guys from school said on two different occasions; "You would be surprised at how many would show up to your funeral, too, Eric."

It was as if they said, "We know what you're thinking, Eric... don't!"

In the shadow of this tragedy, my Aunt Gina called me up the phone and asked me what was going on, and if I was alright. Not going to lie, but I cried on the phone. A little while later, she and my Uncle Bob had my brother and I over for breakfast and over coffee, Uncle Bob asked me, "So what's going on, bub; you OK?"

By merely asking if I was OK it made everything better.

What happened was just as much of a mystery as it was tragic, but it made me appreciate life, the people around me and the brevity of life. Something happened to me during that week, as if there was a knob inside my head that went from "Four" all the way to "Eleven."

Because of all the good and bad that occured, I simply began. Whatever all "this" is that I do now, I started it all then, in earnest. If you lived in the town where I lived back then, and you heard that I did something crazy during that period, there's a 90% chance that it's true.

And it was because of this tragedy that I woke up and stopped being passive and embraced my ability to be an individual person. It's when I stopped being so absorbed in my own pain and started noticing others, that I started doing something. Just because you have a hard-luck story doesn't mean you should ignore others who do too and wallow in your own suffering. Because you have a hard-luck story means you and all the others band together to make it better.

My friend Jeremy Green wasn't the best at everything. He wasn't one of the "stars" or the "elite" in our community. But he was the best at something; his adolescent or sophomoric humor was contagious. He had an ability to make people laugh at anything, no matter how dark and dismal... like we were reading a passage in "Nineteen-Eighty Four" about the protagonist's torture with a rat cage over his face, and Jeremy said this quick little "I bet that had to suck" which caused the class to erupt in laughter.

As many of us have written over the years, he wasn't the best at a lot of things, but he was the best of us for reasons others have explained better than I have on social media. His loss hurt more of us in more ways than we could have imagined. The fact that so many of us take the time to remember more than 30 years later should attest to that. I still get choked up when I think about the day we lost him. He left us with this; be the best of who you are. Just be yourself and focus on the positive and what's good in life.

Take a moment to remember both the big and little things. Focus on the people who are important who need your love and support while shunning the negative. Stand against what's wrong but stand up for the things you love. It's OK to take a hour out of your day and reflect, morn, cry, get angry and outraged at the loss.

When that moment is over, get back to the art of living.

With that, I'll close by saying... to my friend, thanks for sharing your short life with us and inspiring us to be better people. We miss you.

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